[ExI] Use of Alternate Phrases and Words

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Thu Sep 25 23:24:53 UTC 2008

Jef writes

> Can anyone here suggest a simple term meaning "increasingly coherent
> over increasing context" with regard to this property corresponding
> with the expected competence of an agent's model of effective
> interaction with its environment?  It seems such a fundamental and
> generally applicable concept, similarly appropriate to philosophy of
> science, but I get a **lot** of email offlist from people saying they
> tend to get lost after about the second "increasingly" whenever I try
> to express lexically, concepts better expressed mathematically.

I would suggest avoiding reliance on any staple phrase, and 
for several reasons. One----people do become averse to it
(i.e. tired of it). In fact, I think that often in the same missive
if I've already used "evidently", then I'll see if "apparently"
won't work (or replace the first usage). Good writers,
I believe---but we should ask Damien or some other 
professional writer---avoid using the same word if they can
help it. For example, I should toss in "at the same time"
every once in a while when I am discussing "simultaneity". 

Two----someone will think that they know what you mean
because your words do resonate with them. But it will
sometimes turn out eventually that they understood it in
their quick flash of inspiration in a way somewhat at
variance with how you meant it. Then continued
references to the same phrase just confuse further.

Three----any valid concept can be described in many ways
(usually). It's a bad sign, I find, if I must rely on a certain
word, or someone else has to. Sometimes people become
extremely frustrated when after interminable discussion, I
sense that we aren't using a word the same way, and I
demand we stop using it. Surely, if we really do have a good
idea of what we're saying, we need not depend on just a
single word. Like I frequently say

           Words are like ball-bearings on a skating rink:
           to get anywhere to you have to tread carefully
           and be especially wary of putting too much weight
           on any one of them.

So I would suggest that you vary what phrases you use
constantly, so that your readers are able to disambiguate
possible meanings, and some readers will see that their
first leap at what you meant wasn't exactly correct. So
what I say above about words applies to stock phrases
also, I think.


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